The 33 Best Romance Novels of All Time: Books to Love
I’m a sucker for a good love story in any form. The quickest way to get me to read a book is to tell me there is an epic romance. I just love LOVE. That’s why it was so fun to make this list of the best romance novels of all time.
We didn’t limit this list to just typical romance novels. Instead, we have fantasies, YA, classics, and more. This way, no matter what type of romance you love to read, we have you covered.
*This post of the best romance books of all time contains affiliate links. Purchases made through links result in a small commission to us at no cost to you.
The Best Romance Novels of All Time: Classics
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
I read this book in college and absolutely fell in love with Scarlett and Rhett. His passion to win her and then her determination to win him back set my adolescent heart a flutter.
The movie ranks high on our list of best adaptations too! This classic book has a solid place in a list of the best romance novels of all time.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Mr. Darcy, Mr. Darcy, Mr. Darcy. Oh, I love this man. He is the original bad-boy hero. Christian Grey, Edward, and like pale in comparison to this brooding bad boy and are probably all based on him.
This classic romance will pull you in and will not let you go, even if you do not usually read classic books. If you have already explored the other books on this list of best romance novels of all time, this is a great book to pick up.
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
Romeo and Juliet is usually covered during the high school years, but if you haven’t learned about this classic book, you need to read it!
Shakespeare’s beloved story is a tragic romance set in Verona, Italy. It’s about the children of two warring families, Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet who start meeting in secret away from their parent’s machinations.
The story’s tragic end has inspired countless classic book retellings and adaptations on the big and small screen.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Money, murder, wealth, cheating….that is just the tip of the iceberg for this classic story. It also leads to the question of what is love. Does it come hand in hand with jealousy?
Beauty and the Beast by Gavrielle-Suzanna Barbot de Villeneuve
This is a classic story of loving the beauty that is within. We love the book as well as the 2017 movie with Emma Watson. We even made a bedroom in honor of this classic book!
The MinaLima version of this book is absolutely gorgeous. Even if you have read this book from our list of best romance novels of all time, reading this beautiful version is an experience itself.
The Best Romance Novels of All Time: Historical Fiction
The Duke and I (Bridgerton #1) by Julia Quinn
I watched the show and LOVED it so much. I previously read some of the others in the series but I really wanted to read this first book in the Bridgerton book series and I have to say, it was my favorite.
There is something about Daphne and Simon that I adore. This book is a perfect historical romance. The Netflix book adaption smashed records and caused a boom in book sales.
Daphne Bridgerton is the fourth of eight children and is beginning her first season in the ton. As young women of marrying age search for a husband, Daphne is not quite like other girls.
When the eligible Simon Bassett suggests they fake-date to allow them both a chance to breathe, things do not always go as planned. And to make matters more complicated, Lady Whistledown always seems to know the truth and the information ready for everyone to read.
Are you a fan of Bridgerton? We’ve got a list of books like Bridgerton you will love! And if you love romance books, we have Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton Books in Order: Complete Guide to 20 Books.
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (Outlander #1)
How do we love Outlander? We cannot count the ways. There is a reason this is one of my favorite books of all time.
This epic story begins in 1945 when Claire Randall and her husband take a second honeymoon to the Scottish Highlands to celebrate being reunited after the war. When Claire touches one of the standing stones, she is transported to 1743.
This is when the real story begins. In order to stay safe as an English woman in Scotland, she must depend on Jamie Frasier for protection. This book is definitely at the top of our list of best romance novels of all time but you will love it equally if you love historical fiction, magical realism, romance, or witches. This is one of the iconic and epic time travel romance books that has it all and is perfect for a list of books like A Discovery of Witches.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
A tell-all about a fictional Elizabeth Taylor-
Evelyn Hugo has asked an unknown reporter, Monique Grant, to write her life story in a no-holds-barred book. There is a bit of mystery around why Monique was chosen and Evelyn certainly has her fair share of hardships as she claws her way to the top.
The drama and suffering add dimension to the story that makes it so much more than fluff, though the inner workings of Hollywood were fun to read too. The story seems so candid that I honestly forgot that Evelyn Hugo was not a real celebrity.
Taylor Jenkins Reid slays with this story finding the perfect balance of glamour and grit. This was an easy pick for a list of the best romance novels of all time and might seem like an unusual pick for books like A Man Called Ove but, both Ove and Evelyn are seeking to change their lives and in doing so, change for the better.
A Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Deveraux
This setup of this time travel romance is the same as Outlander but in reverse! In the first part of the book, Douglass accidentally summons an Earl from the 16th century to modern England!
Dougless vowels to help return Nicholas to his own time, but not before trying to help him figure out who framed him for treason in his own era. But when he’s sent back and nothing changes, Dougless needs to head back to his time and try to save his life.
The attention to detail in the 16th century was reminiscent of Diana Gabaldon’s work. It’s a total must-read for fans of Jamie and Claire’s love story. You can find this one on our list of Time Travel Romance Books as well as 29 Books like Outlander for Fans of the Hit Series.
A love story that spans time is an easy pick for the best romance novels of all time
Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb
This is one of the books set in Paris that you will also find on our list of books set in France and it is unlike any other. It is written entirely in letter form between two friends during WWI.
You will fall in love with the characters as they fall for each other.
Evie is struggling to find a way to help out during WWI, while Thomas, her brother’s best friend, is struggling with the realities of battle. I just recently started reading WWI books and this one is high on the list.
Juliet: A Novel by Anna Fortier
I ADORE this book set in Italy and have read it numerous times. What if Shakespeare’s Juliet was real and was actually a curse? Alternating between the “real” Juliet’s story and her modern-day descendant’s story, the book proves that love transcends time.
I can’t put my finger on why this story makes my top 10 favorite books, but it’s a comfort read that I go to whenever I need a pick-me-up. I re-read it again and again! It has a little bit of everything – romance, a mystery, a contemporary and historical element. I
t’s such a unique and amazing classic retelling and was a no-brainer pick for a list of the best romance novels of all time and was obviously going to be included in our Ultimate List of Romance Books. The epic love story also makes it perfect for a list pf books like Outlander.
The Age of Light by Whitney Scharer
This historical fiction novel is about real-life photographer and model, Lee Miller. I had never heard about Miller prior to this book, though I was familiar with her lover – Man Ray.
She made some life choices that I can’t say I agree with, but I found her to be a strong, feminist woman ahead of her time. This book from our list of best romance novels of all time will be on my best reads of the year list, but be warned – there are some erotic scenes in the novel. As books for book clubs go, this is one of the best and it’s one of our favorite novels about artists. It’s also on our list of the best books of 2019.
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
I read this book long before we started the blog and I still recommend this book to everyone as a must-read.
It is the middle of the Great Depression and Jacob finds himself orphaned just shy of earning his Veterinary degree. He finds himself a job with a circus caring for a menagerie.
Here he meets Marlena, the beautiful star of the show, and an untrainable elephant named Rosie.
I loved everything about this book from the romance and tension to the beauty of the animals and their relationship with the people around them. This historical fiction romance was one of the first books we thought of for a list of the best romance novels of all time. It is no surprise that this one also found its way to my list of all-time favorite books.
For more like these, check out our post: The Best Historical Romance Novels: 21 Steamy Picks
The Best Romance Novels of All Time: Fantasy
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
This book has a cult-like following for a reason. The first book in the series is a loose fairy tale retelling of Beauty and the Beast set in the world of Prythian. Magical creatures, humans, and fae are all prominent in the book.
This is a fast-paced, addicting, fantasy romance series. A love triangle develops by the end of the story and book two is jaw-dropping! This is on its way to becoming a classic from the list of enemies-to-lovers books. You will want to binge this series in one week. We could not leave this epic romance off a list of the best romance novels of all time.
If you loved ACOTAR, check out this list of books just like it. Or head over to our guide on all of Sarah J. Maas’s books.
Twilight (The Twilight Saga) by Stephanie Meyer
Twilight started a phenomenon and obsession with vampires in the same way that Harry Potter created an obsession with magic. This is obviously my opinion but I am sticking with it.
This vampire series is definitely lacking the gore and fear factor and makes up for it with an amazing romance. When Bella Swan goes to live with her father, she is immediately drawn to Edward Cullen, a mysterious teenager with an old soul. Soon, she discovers he is a vampire. I will not ruin the rest of this cult-like pick from vampire books. But, if you have not read this vampire book yet, what are you waiting for?
It is an iconic urban fantasy series. This love story definitely qualifies as one of the best romance novels of all time. If you love vampire books, you can also check out our list of the best fantasy books for teens.
Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
This re-telling of Homer’s the Iliad is filled with adventure and an epic love story that will not soon be forgotten. This winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction is not to be missed.
We adored Miller’s other book, Circe, as well. It made our list of best magical historical fiction books and is an absolute must-read.
Caraval by Stephanie Garber
When it comes to YA Fantasy books, this one is a classic. The story begins with letters from Scarlett to Legend, the leader of Caraval- a game played once a year in a far-off destination.
Every year, every time it is played, the game is different. Filled with magic and wonder, this destination-based competition is played by Scarlet as she tries to get this year’s prize – her sister Tella – before anyone else can.
There is a love story and magic as the stakes get higher the longer Scarlet plays. This is the first book in three-part series that gets better and more complicated with each new book.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Every word captivated me from beginning to end and I couldn’t put it down. The story was magical- both literally and figuratively and the descriptions are so vivid.
The stage has been set for a magical competition between the pupils of two very powerful magicians. The stage: the night circus. The pupils, a man and woman, are unsure of the rules, unsure of how to win or when the competition will end. As the competition continues, the opponents fall in love- a situation that only complicates their predicament.
This is magic in a way that I never imagined it before. The story has twists and surprises that left me wondering how I didn’t see what was right there all along. Not only can you find this book in our list of the Best Romance Novels of all Time, but you can also find it on our list of the Best Carnival and Circus Books, 24 Books Like the Hunger Games. And now, you can find books just like it in our post of Books Like the Night Circus. Can you tell we love this book?
The Time Traveler’s Wife By Audrey Niffenegger
Clare and Henry have an unusual love story. They’ve known each other since Clare was six and Henry was thirty-six, but got married when Clare was twenty-three and Henry was thirty-one. You see, Henry is an adventurous librarian who inadvertently travels through time.
I adore how this story explores very real challenges that any couple faces. With the added time travel element, it becomes an unforgettable pick from our list of romance books. The way that they fight for their love gives this book its clear spot on our list of best romance novels of all time. But be warned, this book may emotionally wreck you.
While I realize there is only the loose librarian connection to this book list, Henry and Clare’s story is one of my all-time favorites and it shouldn’t be missed. If you are going to read a time travel romance book, this is one that should not be missed. You can find more books like this on our list of 23 of the Best Time Travel Books Like the Time Traveler’s Wife.
The Best Romance Novels of All Time: Dystopian Fiction
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
This is the first book in the Hunger Games series and it is epic! In the aftermath of what was once North America, there are 12 Districts surrounding the capital.
Each year, each district sends one boy and one girl to fight to the death in a competition called “The Hunger Games”. Katniss Everdeen volunteers as a tribute to save her younger sister from the certain death of the games. This book has everything but at its heart, it is a perfect pick for books about sisters.
If you love The Hunger Games, check out these 24 books just like it!
The Selection by Kiera Cass
We have talked about this series so many times that it has its own blog page of books that are similar. It is so much fun- think hunger games meets the bachelor. But, in this case, the bachelor also appears to be the future king. Can you imagine if William held a contest to see who would be the future princess?
This YA fantasy romance has everything- competition, love, and a little bit of backstabbing as well. What more can you ask for from a book for a list of the best romance novels of all time?
The Best Romance Novels Of All Time: Contemporary Fiction
The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood
Olive Smith is a Ph.D. student who does not believe in her ability to be in love. When her best friend develops a crush on someone she dated briefly, she decides to kiss the first man she sees in order to prove she is over him.
That one kiss happens to be with THE Adam Carlsen, an academic genius. The two decide to fake-date and what starts out as pretend, becomes something more- for Olive. I loved this fake dating, office romance novel and it has a well-earned spot on its list of the best romance novels of all time. If you love this book as much as we did, check out our post: Books Like the Love Hypothesis to Obsess Over
The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
I was definitely not prepared for this book. Reader beware that it is the Rosie Project with a sprinkle of Pretty Woman and a whole lot of 50 Shades.
It is not offensive in the least but, I listened to this one, and let me say that I am very glad that my kids were not in the car. I did not realize that some of the scenes would be graphic.
It is a great romance with a neurodiverse main character and I loved it. This contemporary romance is definitely on its way to classic status and has a well-earned place on our list of best romance novels of all time and was an easy pick for a list of books like Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.
Beach Read by Emily Henry
This is one of the best romance books I have read in a long time. What could be better than a romance about writers? January is a romance writer who no longer believes in love. Until she was 28, she led an idyllic life filled with the ideas of perfect love.
Augustus Everett is a literary fiction writer who has never believed in love. They could not be more different. When they find themselves living next door to each other they decide to help each other overcome their writer’s block by challenging each other to a writer’s duel. This might be my favorite pick from our list of enemies-to-lovers books. Emily Henry books never disappoint!
Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
We don’t think about royals and the LGBTQ community because we don’t usually see openly gay royals, which is so sad in today’s society.
This charming book is a fabulous pick from LGBTQ romance novels and is one of the enemies-to-lovers books we recommend most often. I crushed hard for their romance and found myself smiling the entire time. (Also love the nod to a female president…where do I sign up for one of those?)
If you love royal novels and romances as much as we do, check out 16 Sexy Royal Romance Books.
The Proposal (The Wedding Date #2) by Jasmine Guillory
February 2019 Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick
I read this book on one plane flight. It was light, funny, and completely predictable. When Nikole’s “boyfriend” proposes to her at a baseball game and cannot even spell her name correctly, it is a recipe for disaster.
Luckily, Carlos and his sister are at the game to help Nik escape the onslaught of paparazzi waiting. You can guess the rest. This is a great light read and the perfect pick from a list of romance books to read in the summer.
The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
Look no further than this royal romance. If you haven’t read this romance loosely based on Wills and Kate’s love story, read no further. This is the end-all, be-all of Royal Reads.
This novel spans from the time Bex and Prince Nick meet in college until the night before their wedding. It goes through the ups and downs of the relationship and ends on a cliffhanger. But do not worry. The Heir Affair is already out and you can read that one next. Of all the royal reads, this is the one we recommend most often.
My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan
I picked up this contemporary fiction book to help combat my Royal Wedding withdrawal. I assumed it was going to be a light and fluffy romance — I had no idea I was going to be sobbing my eyes out with what is essentially the newest JoJo Moyes.
Ella has moved to Oxford to study for one year before heading back to America to work on a political campaign, fulfilling a lifelong dream to study in the famed English school. But then she falls for her professor and must decide what she wants from the future. We love Julia Whelan and jumped at the chance to include this great book in our list of British romance novels.
The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo
February 2018 Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick
A warm and yet sad story about an intense love that ends. The story goes from good to excellent when we see how the former lovers support each other over the years in their future relationships and how their own relationship evolves.
Be prepared with a box of tissues when you read this one. I was bawling like a baby by the end.
House on the Cerulean Sea by T.J Klune
Linus Baker works as a caseworker in the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. He is sent on a mission to a secret orphanage isolated on an island where 6 of the world’s most dangerous youth live. Linus is sent to determine if the children are being cared for properly. Linus, who lives his life by the book, will have to look deeper to try and find the real answers to his questions. This story was so much more than the sum of its parts.
The magic and the orphan aspect are all reminiscent of Harry Potter. The story has just a touch of magic but somehow seems completely relevant to our society now. This magical realism book is a must-read for anyone who needs a feel-good book.
The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett
One encounter between the hero and heroine leads to three different storylines. Their lives are woven together regardless of which path is being told and the various versions of their love are explored.
This is a love story unlike any other on this list of best romance novels of all time. You can watch their love story unfold in three different ways.
The Best Romance Novels of All Time: Young Adult
When Dimple Met Richi by Sandhya Menon
A cute YA romance about a traditional Indian boy and a not-so-traditional Indian girl. The characters meet at a computer programming seminar where Richi is supposed to woo his unsuspecting future bride, Dimple. This YA book is perfect for books like The Kiss Quotient. Dimple and Stella are both women in stem who know what they want.
They clash and connect throughout the story as they try to determine if they really are destined for each other. Their turbulent relationship is perfect for enemies-to-lovers books.
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
This is characterized as a young adult book but is equally compelling for adult readers. Yoon’s writing is smart, to the point and unlike any other author I’ve read. She is able to make serious, intimidating subjects relatable.
Maddy is a 17 year old girl who is allergic to everything. She has not been outside since she can remember. Then, one day, she sees a boy outside her window and everything changes. I loved this book, although I did predict the ending.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
Imagine if all your past crushes found out you liked them all at once. EEK! That’s what happens to the heroine, Lara Jean Covey when the love letters she wrote get mailed! While this is a romance novel, the series works for our books about sisters post too!
I love Lara Jean – she is quirky, cute, and totally reminds me of me in high school – except she gets to date the most popular boy at school. But their relationship is fake —- or is it? While not necessarily enemies by the strict meaning of the word, we wanted to include this in our enemies-to-lovers books. And you can check out Best YA Romance Books to Indulge in Now for more books like it.